Sebastian Günther is Professor and Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Göttingen. He has previously held appointments at the University of Toronto (where he was promoted in 2003 to Associate Professor of Arabic Language and Literature, with tenure) and Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg (where he received his PhD in 1989). In addition, he has accepted repeated invitations for visiting professorships at various universities and other institutions in the Middle East, including Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt; the National University in Ai Ain, United Arab Emirates; the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Muscat, Oman, and the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.

Professor Günther's research focuses on the intellectual heritage of the Arabic-Islamic world, in particular the Quran, religious and philosophical thought, and Arabic belles-lettres. Furthermore, several of his studies are devoted to Islamic ethics and education.

He has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and international reference works. Among his most recent publications, Roads to Paradise: Eschatology and Concepts of the Hereafter in Islam (2016) deserves special mention. This set of two volumes, co-edited with Todd Lawson (University of Toronto), offers a multi-disciplinary approach to Islamic concepts of death, apocalypse, and the hereafter. It analyses eschatological concepts in the Quran and its exegesis, Sunni and Shi'i traditions, Islamic theology, philosophy, mysticism, and several other scholarly and literary disciplines reflecting pluralism and cosmopolitanism within the Islamic traditions.

Professor Günther is also a co-editor of the Islamic History and Civilization series, published by Brill Academic Publishers:

Current research and book projects

Medieval Muslim Thinkers on Education:
Classical Islamic Pedagogy between Tradition and Innovation (8th-15th century)

This project is devoted to the rich world of educational thought in medieval Islam. It identifies and analytically surveys educational theories advanced by leading Muslim thinkers from the 8th to the 15th centuries CE, a time of fundamental importance in Islamic intellectual history. In fact, most of the Muslim scholars whose concepts of Islamic learning are studied in the framework of this research are still considered authoritative by Muslims today - a point that highlights the special significance of this scholarly endeavor in view of the current discourses on education in our increasingly globalized societies.

Despite the wealth and diversity of educational ideas in medieval Islam, there is to date no publication, neither in Arabic nor Western scholarly literature, which provides a systematic introduction to the educational theories of leading medieval Muslim scholars. The main objective of this project, therefore, is to write a monograph that examines classical Islamic pedagogy and didactics. The research aims at the following objectives:

  • Identification and analysis of theories offered by medieval Muslim thinkers on the contents, goals, ideals, and mechanisms that animate Islamic education;

  • Broadening, through an interdisciplinary lens, our knowledge of the highly intellectual and imaginative views of medieval Muslim scholars on teaching and learning against the backdrop of the cultural, intellectual and political tensions between tradition and innovation in medieval Muslim societies;

  • Uncovering the universal 'humanistic' values of the classical heritage of Islamic learning in Arabic primary sources of various scholarly and literary genres; and

  • Determining the extent to which reason and an innovative spirit have been defining factors in the educational thought of classical Islam, as well as the manner in which paradigms of spirituality, tradition, and bias (toward non-religious educational traditions) may have come to influence pedagogical developments in medieval Islam.

Thus, the project will offer seminal findings on the classical foundations of Islamic education as a key component of Islamicate civilization as a whole. It will have an impact on the ways in which Islamic learning is viewed by Western, still today often Eurocentric, research on education, and be of interest to humanities scholars, interested lay readers, and policy-makers. Date of completion: 2018.
For more information, see:

Conservatism in Early Islam:
Ghulam Khalil (d. 888) and his Manual of Islamic Orthodoxy

This book (co-authored with Prof. M. Jarrar, American University of Beirut) investigates the early concept of Islamic orthodoxy based on a unique medieval Arabic manuscript. Date of publication: 2017.

Geheimnisse der höheren und der niederen Welt:
Islamische Magie im Spannungsfeld von Glaube und Wissenschaft

This volume of collected studies (co-edited with Dr. Dorothee Pielow, Göttingen) presents the results of a 2012 international workshop in Göttingen on the developments, characteristics and cultural-religious interdependencies of Magic in Islam, in both medieval and modern times. Date of publication: 2017.
For more information see:

Knowledge and Education in Classical Islam
This collective studies volume contains the results of the 2011 International Göttingen Congress on this topic. Date of publication: 2017.
For more information see:

Ethische Unterweisung als Bildungsdiskurs:
Der islamische Moralphilosoph und Historiker Miskawaih (gest. 1030) zwischen Rezeption und Transformation

Das Forschungsprojekt im Rahmen des Göttinger Sonderforschungsbereichs 1136 "Bildung und Religion" analysiert das wissenschaftliche Oeuvre des klassischen islamischen Gelehrten erstens dahingehend, wie der Autor das ethische und bildungstheoretische Gedankengut antiker sowie älterer und zeitgenössischer jüdischer, christlicher und muslimischer Autoritäten im Lichte seines eigenen Gottes-, Menschen- und Weltbildes rezipiert, modifiziert und neu kontextualisiert. Zweitens wird herausgearbeitet, auf welche Weise Miskawaih seine Kernaussagen zu Bildung und Ethik diskursiv vermittelt und wie diese wiederum von späteren muslimischen Autoren rezipiert und weiterentwickelt werden.
Diese erste systematische Bearbeitung des für den innerislamischen Diskurs zu Bildung und Ethik bis heute hochbedeutenden Gelehrten Miskawaih verspricht wichtige neue Einsichten. Faszinierend ist dabei insbesondere Miskawaihs Blick auf die Wissensbestände seiner Zeit und auf die Autoritäten, die er rezpiert bzw. die sich ihrerseits mit ihm verbinden.
For more information, see: